Obamacare subsidies legal, Supreme Court rules

scotus-aca-nyt.jpgNew York Times

In a 6-3 decision with the majority opinion written by Chief Justice John Roberts, the Supreme Court ruled it was clear that Congress intended for healthcare tax credits to be available even in states that did not create their own insurance exchanges. Conservatives had challenged the Obama-backed Affordable Care Act by arguing that the wording left out authority for tax credits in those states. Roberts rejected that assertion, writing that “we must read the words in context .… Our duty, after all, is to construe statutes, not isolated provisions.” One of the dissenters, Justice Antonin Scalia, called the majority opinion “quite absurd."

It's a big win for President Obama and puts the healthcare on solid legal footing. From the LA Times story by Scotus reporter David Savage:

The decision is a vindication for the president, who had openly questioned the court’s decision to hear the latest challenge.

By affirming the system of tax subsidies, the justices have the put the law on a firmer legal ground as a nationwide program to help all Americans obtain health insurance they can afford.

The ruling will also come as a relief to Democratic lawmakers, Congressional aides and health policy advocates who scrambled to put the complex law together late in 2009. They had devised an intricate plan to build on the nation’s private insurance system and require everyone with a taxable income to buy insurance or pay a penalty. For those who could not afford the full cost, they extended government-paid insurance for some and offered tax subsidies for others. These subsidies are offered to those with incomes up to $95,000 for a family of four.

The New York Times lede:

The Supreme Court ruled on Thursday that President Obama’s health care law may provide nationwide tax subsidies to help poor and middle-class people buy health insurance.

The case concerned a central part of the Affordable Care Act, Mr. Obama’s signature legislative achievement. The law created marketplaces, known as exchanges, to allow people who lack insurance to shop for individual health plans.

Some states set up their own exchanges, but about three dozen allowed the federal government to step in to run them. Across the nation, about 85 percent of customers using the exchanges qualify for subsidies to help pay for coverage, based on their income.

The question in the case, King v. Burwell, No. 14-114, was what to make of a phrase in the law that seems to say the subsidies are available only to people buying insurance on “an exchange established by the state.”

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